By Michael Praats | July 29, 2020 at 11:42 AM EDT – Updated July 29 at 11:56 AM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Changes could be coming to how developers build mixed-use developments in the City of Wilmington, requiring developers to focus on commercial construction, not just residential.
Mixed-use developments are often advertised to both the city and residents as a solution to traffic woes by reducing the need for multiple trips — but according to the city — this is not what is happening. Now, a proposed text amendment is hoping to change that by requiring developers build at least 25 percent nonresidential uses in these districts.
Since 2002, the city has allowed developers to build some residential uses in commercially zoned districts, this permitted use is known as commercial district mixed-use (CDMU) within the city’s Land Development Code (LDC).
“The objective was to allow for the creation of balanced, mixed-use developments by placing office, commercial, and residential uses within a single development, thereby increasing convenience to residents and reducing the number of shopping and commuting trips needed. The CDMU provision has not achieved that objective due, in part, to the lack of minimum required commercial use(s) in these commercial districts,” according to a proposed Land Development Code amendment that will go before the city’s Planning Commission on Aug. 5.
While the intention of the 2002 addition of CDMU was to create commercial areas where residents could live, work, and shop, developers have placed a focus on multifamily developments with little commercial development, according to planning staff.
“Instead of commercial with some residential mixed in, resulting CDMU developments have essentially become intensive multi-family residential projects with a token amount of commercial uses to satisfy the unspecified mixed-use requirement,” according to the amendment.
To further drive this point home, the city listed several developments utilizing the current standards, and the percentage of nonresidential square footage:
- Lofts at Park Avenue 1.5%
- Kerr Station Lofts 2.0%
- Belle Meade Apartments 1.0%
- Cottages at College Acres 2.0%
- Flats at Main 1.0%
- Arboretum West 4.5%
- 17th Street Mixed-Use 1.5%
- Oleander Commons 1.0%
“These token amounts of nonresidential uses are insufficient to achieve any meaningful reduction in shopping and commuting trips, as is the intent of the CDMU provision,” according to the city.
Since these districts were expected to be mostly commercial in nature, not residential, the current requirements do not include and open space for developments. That has allowed new multifamily construction to reach higher density ratios than what is allowed even in residential districts.
“The lack of open space and greater development density, in turn, has resulted in developments with more impervious surface area per acre and more extensive land clearing for essential site improvements compared to typical multifamily developments,” according to the amendment.
If approved the amendment would bring some serious changes to how CDMU developments look in Wilmington. The following are some of the proposed changes to the CDMU:
- Require a minimum amount of open space of one half the amount required in multifamily zoning districts
- Establish a minimum amount of nonresidential development, as measured by building square footage, of 25%
- Cap development density at 24 units per acre, which is seven units per acre higher than allowed in the Multifamily-Medium (MF-M) district
- Prohibit single-family detached housing (to date, no CDMU development has included single-family development)
The City of Wilmington’s Planning Commission will meet on Aug. 5 at 6 p.m. to hold a public hearing on the proposed changes, the next step after that would be for the amendment to head to Wilmington City Council for a final decision.
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